The Cowboy Way can be as timeless as roping a calf from horseback or as modern as checking crops from above using a drone, but it’s always been about hard work and feeding the world.
That was one of the messages for about 375 fourth graders who attended Kids Ag Day on Wednesday at Ron Koelsch’s Diamond K Farm west of Great Bend. Although the event has been held at several locations over the years, Koelsch has been involved from the start.
This was the 26th year for the field trip to a working farm, organized by the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce’s ag committee. “We have about 80 volunteers,” committee chairman David LeRoy said. That included FFA members from Ellinwood and Great Bend high schools, who helped set up tables and chairs the day before. On Wednesday they oversaw the petting zoo and helped serve meals.
The purpose of Kids Ag Day is to educate fourth graders about agriculture and the many things that go into it, LeRoy said.
T.R. Esfeld’s program on “cowboy ways” included a demonstration of roping, which is a useful skill for giving a calf a dose of medicine. But a modern cowboy may also ride an all-terrain vehicle and use a dart gun. Either way, Esfeld said it’s not uncommon for a cattle producer to work 12- and 14-hour days. His advice to future producers was, “find a job you like and get after it.”
There were several demonstrations and programs set up around the farm, and hayrides powered by farm tractors shuttled students and teachers from station to station.
At the program “Animals on the Farm,” Shane Dicks showed children some of the things cattle like to eat. Dicks invited the children to smell the different types of food: hay, alfalfa and silage. Cattle may also eat steamed flaked corn. “This tastes like candy to them,” he said, holding up a handful of distiller’s grain. “It’s very high in protein.”
Children watched a horse being shoed and learned about veterinary care, soil conservation and nutrition.
Donna Krug and Michelle Beren from the Cottonwood District of the K-State Extension assembled a giant prop hamburger, explaining guidelines for healthy eating. There can be lots of healthy things in a hamburger, but children should aim to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day, they said.
Krug showed the children an experiment, soaking two pieces of bread in water. One was made from enriched wheat flour and one was made from whole-wheat flour. The whole-grain bread held together while the enriched-wheat bread fell apart. “That (whole-wheat) bread is going to stay with you longer,” she said, and that means it will provide more energy.
Area beekeepers Greg and Bruce Swob always provide a program on bees, telling children that a queen bee lays 2,000 eggs a day in the summer and it takes 1,100 bees to make a pound of honey.
LeRoy said Kids Ag Day hasn’t changed much over 26 years, but there was something new this year. Over at the “Ag Trivia” station, children could also learn a little about “Women in Agriculture.”